Key Verse: Rom 16:25
I. What Is a Mystery?
A. The word "mystery" is the Greek word, mustêrion , derived from the Greek verb muéœ , "to initiate." It is also related to múœ meaning "to shut the eyes or the mouth." Consequently, it stands for rites and truths which must be closely guarded by those who possess them.
B. The meaning of this word in Classical Greek was "anything hidden or secret." In the plural, tá mustêria , "the sacred rites," it denoted secrets which were kept from the uninitiated.
C. In the New Testament, it is the unrevealed that is mysterious. Many now see "through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor 13:12) and only "know in part" (1 Cor 13:9). When we reach heaven, we shall know in full, even as we are known (1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2).
D. The revelation of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world is not only an historical fact to be learned, but a spiritual truth that only God through the Holy Spirit can reveal to our hearts.
II. Christmas Presents Two Great Mysteries
A. The first is the fact of the incarnation of the Word, Lógos , or "intelligence" (John 1:1,14). This mystery is incomprehensible to our human minds. How can the infinite, eternal Spirit take upon Himself a tangible form ( morphên , Phil 2:6-8)? Jesus Christ partially revealed this mystery to some in His day and continues to do so in ours (Eph 3:4; 5:32; 6:19; Col 4:3). Those who understand the mystery of Christ’s birth are the initiates who now have access to further secrets of the kingdom of God (Matt 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10). These believers try to pass on the mystery of Christ and His kingdom (1 Cor 2:7; Eph 6:19; Col 2:2), but to those unenlightened by God Himself it is all foolishness (1 Cor 2:14).
B. After "the Word was made flesh," He "dwelt among us" (John 1:14). What is translated as "among" is the Greek preposition en , which can mean "among" but primarily means "in." Indeed, the second Christmas miracle is even greater. God not only came "among us" but He actually dwells "in" us. When He does, we in effect become members of His body, the Church, and are initiated into all of the privileges thereof.
III. What Does Christmas Mean to Us?
A. First, we must accept it as a mystery (Rom 16:25); otherwise we will underestimate its value. The more mysterious God is, the more glorious He is in our eyes (Prov 25:2; 1 Cor 2:7). It is a humbling experience when we must confess that we neither know nor understand something, and that no matter how hard we try, we cannot change this.
B. Jesus Christ is also able to "establish" us (Rom 16:25). The word for establish is st¢ríxai , the aorist infinitive of st¢rízœ , "to make steadfast, to cause us to stand and to keep us from evil" (see 1 Thess 3:13; 2 Thess 2:17; 3:3; 1 Peter 5:10). Once we are initiated into the revelation of His mystery, we in Christ and He in us, nothing will be able to move us (John 10:28,29). It is He who has the power ( dunaménœ ) to stabilize us in the faith once and for all.
C. Paul personally appropriated this good news for himself, which is why he referred to it as "my gospel." Likewise, it must become personal to each one of us.
D. That which was good news for Paul became "the preaching of Jesus Christ" to others (Rom 16:25). He never attempted to make Christ’s incarnation understandable; instead he preached that it must be accepted as true. When believed and acted upon, this mystery is indeed revolutionary.
E. We should count ourselves privileged that the wonderful mystery which remained silent ( sesig¢ménou , the perfect passive participle of sigáœ ) "since the world began" (Rom 16:25) has now been entrusted to us, not only for our own good, but also for the good of those with whom we share it.
F. The purpose of God revealing Christ to us is so that we might obey Him through faith (Rom 16:26). This devotion to Christ is His plan for us and the people of all nations. In His wisdom, God planned this great mystery for His own glory (Rom 16:27) which is revealed in us and others to come.